"The world is our neighborhood.”
Photo via Jessica Nabongo
By far one of our favorite women to follow on instagram for inspiration, Jessica Nabongo (aka @thecatchmeifyoucan) is a Ugandan-American travel blogger and influencer who is the first Black woman to have travelled to every country in the world.
Via Travel + Leisure: Jessica Nabongo may have been born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, but she makes one thing clear: “The world is our neighborhood. For me, home is in people. You can find home in many different places, even if it’s your first time visiting.” As the first documented Black woman to visit every country in the world, home has meant a cattle camp in South Sudan, a hot air balloon in Myanmar, a barbershop run by a Congolese refugee in Malawi, a yurt in Kyrgyzstan, and yes, even North Korea. But a curiosity about the world and the people in it coursed through the Ugandan-American long before her two-and-a-half-year global odyssey began in 2017. “Travel is fundamentally a part of who I am,” said Nabongo, who started traveling internationally at the age of four with her parents to destinations like Jamaica, Mexico, Uganda, London, and Canada. By the time she finished high school, Nabongo had visited eight countries — and she was only getting started. The self-proclaimed “geography nerd” spent the following years crisscrossing the map, first quitting her corporate job to teach English in Japan, then studying abroad at the London School of Economics, followed by living in Benin, West Africa, and Rome, while working at the United Nations. All in all, she’s lived in five countries on four continents, and by the time her epic expedition around the world commenced, she already had 60 countries under her belt. Constantly on the move, it’s no wonder, then, that her motto (and moniker for her blog) is The Catch Me If You Can.
And as a solo female Black traveler, specifically, Nabongo sees herself as an ambassador. “I’m Black, I’ve always been Black, I’ll always be Black. I can only move through the world as a Black person…what it means oftentimes, for better or worse, is that you become a representative for the people that people identify you as,” she said. “For the most part, people identify me as African – I’m not often identified as a Black American. It presents an opportunity to give people in different places an experience, and to work to normalize our existence beyond entertainment, beyond what they see on the news. It offers a chance to give people a real-life experience and hopefully help them realize, as I have, that we’re more similar than we are different.” In fact, breaking down barriers has been part of Nabongo’s mission well before she even set out on her around-the-world journey. In 2015, she founded Jet Black, a boutique travel firm that works with governments and brands to promote tourism to countries in Africa, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. Upon launching, Nabongo tells us, the company’s first tagline was: "Changing the narrative."